Monday, 28 March 2016

A Weekend of Firsts

 This Easter weekend I did a couple of things for the first time, they were both big in my eyes but both for different reasons. As part of my “walk myself happy” campaign I went to Wales with a friend to have little, yes you guest it, walk. It turned into a mini adventure and we ended up walking just over 35km! We picked a part of Offa’s Dyke as our  walk, started at 6.30ish and had a super pleasant drive in the sun. The weather gods decided they were gonna smile on us all day and we had sun for 90% of the time.

Offa’s Dyke is a manmade earthwork that sort of follows the English-Welsh border. It is named after a Mercia kind called Offa who historians believe is the one that ordered it to be build in the 8th century. Offa’s Dyke path is a 177 mile trail that goes from the bay of Liverpool to the Severn estuary. It traverses through diverse terrain and countryside. If you are interested in walking any part of the Dyke or want to explore other parts and activities in Wales the Visit Wales website has great maps and detailed suggestions depending on the length and difficulty of the walk or type of activity that you are looking for. We picked Pandy to Hey-on-Wey - an 18 mile straight line walk - as our treck for the day as it goes along the ridge of Hatterrall hill as it afforded great views and gave us some steep climbing to do. Getting up the hill to the Dyke is a challenge, if like me you are unfit, so I have to say thank you to my walking buddy for the patience and slow pace. Once on top of the ridge however all the aching, panting and thunderous heartbeating is quickly forgotten as you get swallowed by the immense landscape.

We had a patchwork quilt of farmland on our right, a valley on the left and then a second ridge and the black mountains beyond. I know I wasn’t high up, the highest part of the hill being 530 meters and yet I felt on top of the world. To add to the idyllic picture there were animals everywhere, as the area is shared commons. We walked amongst mostly sheep and ponies, but there was the occasional cow here and there.

The morning went by in a flash under a warm sun, walking past other hikers of all ages, sizes and abilities, each of them smiling and saying a hello. At lunchtime we had some food and decided we should turn back, we had gone a good way by now, it looked like just about 2/3rds of the way to Hay-On-Wey. Instead of going back the way we came however we came down from the ridge into the valley below and smack right into the middle of lambing season! The fields were alive with the sound of baahing and little baby lambs jumping all around. Some were so young they were still unsure on their feet.

As we made our way back east we got to Llanthony Priory, a 12th century Augustinian priory that is partly in ruin, the parts of it still habitable now turned into a hotel/Inn. The site is incredibly beautiful, the arches of the Priory standing dark against the bright green landscape. It is certainly a must see, and a very pleasant spot for a picnic. Therefore, sitting on one of the walls we had our second rest, which by this point, a good 20km in was very needed, for me at least. The sun was beautifully warm and if we didn’t have as long left to go I would have probably stayed there much longer.

We didn’t have a particular route that we were following at this point so we strayed a little, and Google maps is shite and totally useless when you are in the deepest darkest Welsh countryside where mobile phones are still very much a thing of the future. Eventually we made it back to Pandy and the car rather tired but on my part at least extremely pleased, self satisfied and proud.   

The next day I was a little stiff, my toes were a bit tender and I was very tired, a two miles stroll from the city centre felt more like 200 miles but I was content. My reward for my hike was the second thing I tried for the first time this weekend, a Baby Ruth! I had seen them in the shop’s foreign isle for a while, I have always wanted one ever since the first time I saw the Goonies. If you love the Goonies as much as I do you will know why trying a Baby Ruth for the first time is worth mentioning. I am pleased to say I liked it and I ticked an item off my bucket list. I agree with you, I have a somewhat strange bucket list…!  

I won’t lie, the walk wasn’t easy. I had aches and pains everywhere, my lungs felt like someone had shredded them to bits by the end. My hips hurt, which was depressing because I am not 80, my empty rucksack got heavy, my back turned into a bit of a comma. If day one after the walk I was a little stiff, then day two I was like one of those lambs, getting up for the first time! None of that mattered, I still had a smile on my face, I felt exhilarated, content, alive. I would have kept walking, I will keep walking! And I will get more and more of you to join me!         

Oh and one last thing...I didn’t fall over!!!!

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